Thursday, May 31, 2007

The ultimate sin

Google "despair is a sin" and you get some interesting stuff. Supposedly it's not just any sin, it's a huge one. I don't get this idea. I understand that lack of faith in God's design is supposed to be a horrible thing, but my persistent belief in a loving God makes him one who feels our despair along with us and considers it a soul sickness. No, sin is separation from God and is not defined by being fun, but despair carries its own hell in its own right hand.

But to cause despair - to take away anyone's hope, to leave them bereft of any belief in any possibility of justice, any end to their state of helpless limbo, is, to me, the essence of evil. Nothing is a greater horror to the God I believe in, than to see one of us spread despair.

So when anybody says that the current administration has a Christian bone in its collective bod, I boil. From where I sit, no member of the B.AD. has a concept of, or an interest in, the meaning of God or His love.

Well, a smart guy of my acquaintance said it very well, here.

It wasn't us!

Bringing you vital Mammoth News -- scientists have uncovered new evidence that maybe early human hunters did NOT, after all, hunt North American mammoths to extinction! It might have been a comet.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

College Life circa 1905. A Letter From Mary.

The Woman's College of Baltimore (which became Goucher College in 1910)
Basketball Team, 1906.
My Great-Aunt Mary Whalen is the second girl from the left.

5 o'clock

Dear Mamma;-

I took Cousin Jamie to the concert Friday night & we both enjoyed it very much. The songs were many of them "local songs" written by Bess De Boer (T.K.Pi [Marion's frat.]) They delt with the standing college jokes and were very funny. This is part of the one called "Forbidden" which was sung with great solemnity by the glee club --

"Forbidden, forbidden to look at a man
except Friday night when you won't if you can.
And then on a Sunday you're left in the lurch
unless your dear sweetheart sits next you in church."

(The girls may have callers on Friday night alone--never on Sunday)

"Forbidden, forbidden, forbidden are we
to do this thing and that thing and the other thing, ah me!
Of every sweet privilege we are bereft
'Till singing in chapel is all that we're left."

They sang a song called "girls will be girls" of which the chorus of the last verse (in which the fighting, rolling, thumping, of a basketball game was told) was

"Girls will be boys, girls will be boys
The world may change and things seem strange
but girls will still be boys."

The songs "took" remarkably well. Oh i did enjoy the concert so!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Thoughts on my Tenth Anniversary



It takes some of us a long time to get it right.

We met in 1989 and I don't remember it. Larry does. He thought I was cute. I ... look, I issued a lot of library cards to a lot of people during my 14 years at that job. 8~) So, he met me in 1989, but I didn't meet him till 1990 when we found ourselves in the same circle of friends. We all went out in a big group on Friday nights and he became one of my best friends.

But that's all he was. I was busy for the next 4 years with a series of relationships. The third of these involved another in the group, and got serious in 1993. In fact we asked our Very Good Friend Larry, who was a mail order minister, to officiate at our barefoot, sunset wedding ceremony.

Our friendship with Larry continued. When job issues and a need to be near his children took him back up north, I felt a loss I could not explain.

The story of my first marriage would take a book, but I'll say I was committed to it and gave it everything but my life. After 13 months I ended it. It was time to pick a place I wanted to live, make it my own and start over. The first time I drove over the bridge into Wilmington, NC, the little coastal city nestled against the Cape Fear river won me over. I rented an apartment and returned to my interim place to collect my stuff.

Larry had kept up with a common friend. Her daughter lived in my building, and as I was loading my car, a voice called to me from the balcony: "Somebody is wondering where you've gone!" Larry and I began writing letters.

Meanwhile, down in NC I went color-mad. I'd always coordinated things before. Now I bought bright colored towels and blankets: purple, magenta, emerald green. I loved my quilts and the Tidal Creek health food store down the road, and my funny old shelter cat, and my Spencer Gifts bubble lamp -- I thought this thing would entrance the cat, but he ignored it -- and most of all I loved my door key, that no one else had a copy of. I biked, and I shopped too much, although I had moved out of The Marital Home quickly and left some basics behind. I attended womens' support groups. Church singles. An office job stapling things and running a copy machine. All women.

Columbus Day weekend of 1995, my dear friend Larry came to visit. Since then we always celebrate Columbus Day.

On April 25, 1997, I married the minister who had married me to my first husband. I've kept one picture of my first wedding because someone very important to me is in it. Besides, we haul it out when we tell people our story and they respond with: "You're kidding." I've joked that we should go on afternoon talk shows, but, nah. We'll just tell the story and watch people smile.

As i began to write this entry I tuned up the "Loud!" playlist in my music files and came across this song:

We'll raise our glasses, to
puzzle pieces,
and the way they fit together
we never saw till now.
Here's to questions that
meet their answers
in the bright light of hindsight.
It will all come clear somehow.

........"Here's to Hindsight" - Tara Leigh Cobble

Friday, May 18, 2007

Give us this day our proper label

It's always fun to pour my Mystery-Flavor Super-Strength tea-of-the-day (brewed for me each morning by my DH), prop my feet up on the wall, check email and find a Zogby survey waiting. How I got on their list I dunno, but being a Zogby Survey-ee makes me feel terribly important.

But when I finish the fun part and get to the standard questions designed to box me into my Proper Demographic, one question bugs me. Having checked off that I am a Protestant of non-denominational or "other" persuasion, I get asked this:

"Do you consider yourself a born-again, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christian?
- Yes
- No
- Not sure
- Refused"

So. What if I'm one out of three?

On one occasion I got irritated and marked "Refused." For awhile I ticked "Not sure." I did this in spite of the word "or." The Zogbyists might want me to check "yes" even if I fit only one of the three terms, but in results I will still get lumped in with fundamentalists. But OK, I'll check "yes." Let me skew the official position of the fundamentalist demographic. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Months ago I decided to annoy them with some "Questions and comments on this survey" wherein I explained that the three terms - fundamentalist, evangelical, born again -- are not a package deal. While they tend to occur together, not one of them is dependent on another, either as cause or as effect.

I am born again. It's an experience. I had it.

I am not a fundamentalist. I am not an evangelist. I am also not, technically, a "liberal Christian" since my theology is not anti-supernatural, not anti-miracle. The Nicene Creed is pretty much okay by me.

If I fit into a box --and that's a big If -- it's the Christian Left. You know, those radical pinko preverts who believe Christ was a fan of peace, caring for the needy, everybody being entitled his own spiritual path. Stuff like that. Subscribers to liberal theology can be Christian Leftists too, but if we want to believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, nobody is kicking us out of The Left over how backward we are.

Zogby ignored me. The question remains worded as it always was.

My guess would be that for a Born Again to be a political liberal is so statistically uncommon -- or they think it is -- that they have no motivation to break the "non-denominational Protestant" category down any further than their question allows. It still bugs me. There are, I think, a lot more of us than the popular image of the "Christian" would indicate. Whatever our percentage, we're not marginal. If surveys glom the three categories together under one fundamentalist umbrella, it's hard to sort us out and I think we need to be identified.

By request


The good phase of the alcohol was wearing off. Now she was getting short-tempered. "Pillow Talk" still thumped in her head while she shivered and fought the soreness in her thigh and butt muscles from a week of mincing steps on the slick walks.

It was a relief to stand still and wait for the traffic light at Klecka and Main. They crossed and turned onto campus.

"Wow. Look." Meredith pointed at the sky over the buildings on west campus.

Garish red lights flashed against the low hanging clouds. Something was happening in the parking lot behind the Complex and library buildings. "Is that the cops?" wondered Gwen. A few passers-by were wandering toward the lights. "What's going on?" Gwen asked one of them, but the girl just shrugged.

"Those are ambulance lights," said someone else.

They rounded the library corner in time to see an EMT crew wheeling someone down the sidewalk on a stretcher.

The attendants angled the stretcher to lift the patient into the ambulance. Meredith saw the girl's face at the same time Audrey did. "That's Laurie."


Denny was awake when Audrey tiptoed in. A notebook lay on the blanket at her feet, in the small pool of light from her desk lamp, but Denny lay curled, her face red and tear-streaked.

"Hey," Audrey said softly. "You any better?"

"It's on the downhill side now." She unwrapped her arms from the heating pad and resettled it, the cord snaking in a line under the blanket.

Audrey sat on the edge of her own bed and locked her hands between her knees to avoid a lecturer pose. "Denny, what the fuck is going on? There's no way that this is what you've gone through every month for five damn years."

Denny's tears welled up again. "It's not. I mean, it is but..." She gulped. "I don't know! Yeah, this is how bad it hurts if I don't take anything, but that's why I have the prescription. It's never not worked before."

"But doesn't codeine lose its power after awhile? Like, you build a resistance to it?"

Denny shook her head. "Not if you take it for 3 days and then not again for a month!"

"You never...?" Audrey stopped herself, but it was too late.

"What the fuck are you, the Romper Room attendant?" Denny smeared angrily at her running nose and sat up.

Double God damn. Why can't I shut up? What a crappy night.

"Denny, I'm sorry, I just...."

"Skip it." Denny punched her pillow upward and yanked a handful of tissues from the box on her dresser top before she sank back onto it. "No, I do not misuse it. I've been on this stuff for three years and I know God damn well that if I use it for a God damn recreational drug, then I will get resistance and be in total fucking hell when the cramps start so, no, once and for God damn all, I do not use it more than three days a month."

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Okay?" Audrey was ready to cry now. She shifted sideways, hugged her knees and sank her head down on her arms. Damn the coolers. I wish my head would clear. Maybe I should make tea. Double bag it, get a good caffeine jolt.

Finally Denny spoke. "Look, I am not able to handle things when I feel like this. I overreacted."

After a beat, Audrey dropped her hands and leaned back. "It was insulting. What I said. I'm sorry." She looked over at Denny with a tired smile.

Denny's smile was equally weak. "It wasn't all that crazy to ask. I've done drugs. I've used hash and mushrooms and I do speed sometimes to get my work done."

Audrey blinked. "Shit. You do?"

"I got behind." Denny sat quietly for a minute and wiped her eyes. "Maybe my body is just rejecting this place. The food, the water, the boring stupid work. I should drop out."

Audrey looked away and said as mildly as she could, "It's no secret you aren't getting into anything here." Denny didn't reply. "I swear, Denny, don't go thinking I'm all that happy either. I feel like one of those old movies. You know? Where somebody wakes up in the wrong life?"

"You? You're—"

But Audrey interrupted. "I forgot to tell you! Laurie's in the hospital."

"What? She is?"

Audrey rubbed her forehead. "I wouldn't even know, but we happened to see them load her into the ambulance when we were walking back from that bar. Just a few minutes ago."

"How could I not hear‑‑?"

"The library. Whatever it was, she got sick in the library."

"Laurie was in the library on a Friday night?"

"She had a midnight date with that Ernie guy tonight. Gwen's gonna go out and tell him when he gets here. She sent us on and went in to get Laurie's books and bring them back for her."

"How sweet." Denny mulled this over. "You saw them put her in the ambulance?" Audrey nodded. "So, was she crying in pain or anything?"

"Uh-uh. She didn't move. She looked passed out."

Denny didn't seem to know what to make of this. "They weren't rushing?"

"Nah. They just rolled her over to it and lifted her in. They didn't use the siren when they pulled away."

"Okay. That sounds like some pain thing. Like, a migraine or appendicitis. Or cramps." Denny gave a wry smile. "Or something like that, where they gave her a pain shot and it put her out. Her vital signs must have been okay, or they'd have been, I dunno, pumping things and yelling 'Stat!' and that kind of Medical Center shit."

Audrey hadn't been able to think it through like that. "Yeah, I guess."

Another few minutes of quiet. Denny rose again to get her cigarettes and ashtray, and lit up. She resettled against the pillow.

"I'm really glad you're better today. You scared me yesterday."

"Thanks," said Denny. "Really, it kinda scared me too. But the cramps are cycling like normal, so that means... I don't know. Nothing's wrong inside me. Or nothing's any wrong‑er than usual."

"Wrong-er? Is that anything like worse‑er?"

A smiling Denny gave her the finger. Audrey got up, stripped, pulled on her flannel pajamas and snapped off Denny's desk lamp. She got under the covers. When she was settled Denny asked, "So how was the bar?"

"Loud," yawned Audrey. "Boring. Lotta Avon Lady majors," she finished sleepily and rolled over.

Audrey started awake to a sharp rap.

Damn, what...?

Denny sat up in bed, then doubled over. "What the fuck is that?" she gasped. The sudden jerk-awake must have cramped her up. Gray morning light filtered into the room. It was just after seven AM, Audrey noted.

Something's happened. Laurie?

The door opened without their invitation. Jean Schug stood there in her usual skirt, blouse and sturdy shoes. Wow. She was fully decked out this early on a Saturday. A woman police officer stood just behind her, thin lips and a short page-boy.

Mrs. Schug spoke: "Denny, Audrey, I need for you both to get dressed and come to my apartment. Now."

They were frozen. "Now, girls," repeated Mrs. Schug.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Today's Contribution to Western Civilization

It's undoubtedly been discovered previously by about 30 thousand other people. But for any who are still grappling with the serious question of how to carry snacks around in a purse, tote bag, or briefcase, even long term, without their getting smushed or crushed -- I offer my solution: the hard, spring-hinged eyeglass case.

A hard case accomodates candy and snack bars or even those preservative-laden, yet fragile, cracker packs, and will preserve them from all hard-to-eat or unappetizing mutilations, even if kept in the purse or bag long term.

That's about as high as my mental biorhythm will let me soar today. Carry on, Grasshoppers.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I am NOT sweet!

A friend who knows me only online just called me "sweet." I did a very small thing - I remembered somebody's name.

But, see, I am NOT sweet. I'm a shrill, grouchy shrew. No, really, I am, and the more I say it, the more people think I'm joking.

Which is something about the internet that greatly interests me. On the internet you can become someone else.

In real life, I use language that could blister the paint on a fire engine. I'm known for taking out my computer frustrations on the keyboard. Once I slammed it with my fist so hard that the "escape" key shot up and hit the wall. This has become one of those Family Stories that one can never live down. "It sure wanted to escape! Ha ha!" And so forth.

I thought I was being very insightful once, when I admitted: "I'm a Type A personality."

"You're an A+, dear!" answered Dear Husband, with a warm smile.

"Aw, thanks, hon-- Hey, wait a minute..."

Yet online, I have a reputation (at least, in groups with more ordinary IQ levels - I live dangerously and hang around in one with a collective IQ that leaves me in the dust, so they might not be fooled) as being Calm, Wise, Mature, and even Kind!

They've never seen me when someone steals my shopping cart.

See, now, this is a big button I have, just waiting to be pushed by some Yeg out there in the real world. It makes me seethe. It causes me to reveal the nastiest side of my personality. The side that read Brave New World, ignored its message of dehumanization, and instead immediately began to delight in classifying people: "Eh, he thinks he's an Alpha Double Plus, but he's just a Beta." "This store is full of Gammas! I can't stand it!"

The only reason I've never made a scene in a store when my cart was stolen is that I can never identify the person who did it. I've stepped away to slap melons (This, by the way, is better than thumping them, for determining ripeness), and return to find my cart gone. On one occasion, a fair-sized stack of items I had placed in it was now lying on the floor. The miscreant who's violated me in this way is now aisles away and blending perfectly with the rest of the shoppers.

My nostrils flare. Lightning bolts shoot from my eyes.

DH finds me simply baffling. His philosophy of fighting battles is annoyingly sane: "How important is it?" he asks, decides that most trivial offenses like this aren't worth getting upset over, and gets another cart.

Trivial?! I snarl.

I have a mental picture of the cart thief. Only women do this. Obese women with the slack-jawed vacant stare that comes from the extreme mental exertion they must expend to decide who to vote off, on reality TV shows. Such a person is too stupid to realize she will want a cart and obtain one from the corral as she enters the store. Too lazy to go back out and get one. Too completely locked into the material world of expediency to consider that there's anyone else on the planet who counts. She has a Need. Something that will fill it is there in her field of vision. She takes it. The world exists for her to strip mine.

See? See how vicious I am? I'm an awful person.

But the internet lets me edit myself. I can write up a long rant dripping with acidic sarcasm, then say, "Ah! That felt good! Now...delete, delete..." I've done this enough times, and lived to be glad I had. I tore a self-righteous woman to shreds once, then deleted it, and later that day she returned with apologies, a mention of the stresses in her life, etc etc.

I learned long ago, the steam-release function of writing. Just writing. To no one. I once typed a lengthy letter to my college roomate on my electric typewriter -- with the machine turned off. I simply hit dead keys and vented everything. Then I got up from the chair and went to dinner, feeling about 1000% better.

But a lot of people don't seem to do this. They write, don't even reread it, and hit "send."

I don't get it. The internet is a golden opportunity for them to make themselves look nice. Kind and wise. They could be exactly who they've always wanted to b--

Wait. I think i just answered my own question.

Never mind.